NEW YORK 16 June 2010 – More than 120 million people will remain at risk from yellow fever if planned mass vaccination campaigns are not carried out in Nigeria and Ghana, according to the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision. A continuing financial shortfall is threatening the global supply of yellow fever vaccine and could result in the exclusion of the two countries from upcoming campaigns.
Over the past three years, campaigns across West Africa have enabled 61 million people to be immunized, protecting them from the risk of devastating yellow fever outbreaks.
While global yellow fever vaccine production capacity has tripled in the past decade from 30 million to 90 million doses per year, lack of funding is likely to result in reallocation of available supply and reduced production. Funds are needed to maintain the global emergency vaccine stockpile for outbreak response and to reach an additional 120 million people at risk. Vaccine manufacturers have indicated willingness to scale-up production, provided there is commitment to purchase.
''We commend the effort of countries and this international commitment because there is a clear, rational, public health and business argument for ensuring funds are available to sustain immunization activities and complete the task before us,” said Dr Edward Hoekstra, Senior Health Specialist at UNICEF. “We call upon international donors and our country partners to continue efforts to support yellow fever control activities and protect people's lives.”
The ICG, whose members include UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recently met in Geneva to review progress of immunization programmes and yellow fever vaccine supply to ensure the ongoing protection of populations most at risk of yellow fever outbreaks.
''We need to ensure that the effective response mechanisms in place are sustained and that Nigeria and Ghana are not left out because of lack of funding,” said Dr Bokar Toure, Coordinator of the WHO Intercountry Support Team for West Africa.
Preventive vaccination campaigns are conducted in areas where the disease is endemic and where outbreaks are reported. As a key partner in the Initiative, the GAVI Alliance has committed 110 million of the 290 million US dollars needed.
Through support of GAVI and other partners, 47 million people have been immunized in 9 countries in West Africa and 14 million people protected through global emergency response since 2007. Immunization is currently underway in Guinea, targeting a population of 6.2 million and later this year, Côte d'Ivoire will aim to protect an additional 15 million people. However, funding has yet to be secured to implement mass campaigns from 2011 onwards.
Dr Rosamund Lewis, Project Leader for the Yellow Fever Initiative said recent outbreaks show that yellow fever virus continues to circulate in the Americas as well as Africa, with new areas of risk emerging due to climate change, deforestation, urbanization, population movements and low population immunity to infection.
Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Although the disease is endemic in forest areas, yellow fever can cause explosive urban outbreaks which can result in many deaths. People are at greatest risk at the end of the rainy season. According to WHO estimates, 200,000 cases and 30,000 deaths occur every year.
The Yellow Fever Initiative is a partnership working to prevent yellow fever epidemics across Africa and South America through preventive vaccination and emergency response. The initiative is a joint collaboration of WHO and UNICEF, with the participation of National Governments and non-government organizations, and supported by the GAVI Alliance and other partners. Established in 2001, the International Coordinating Group for Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision (ICG) approves allocation and release of vaccine. The nine countries which have completed yellow fever preventive vaccination campaign are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinée, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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Christian Moen, UNICEF Media, New York
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